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Like Big Sis, Isis Smalls Uses Beauty To Fulfill Her Passion
1/22/2014 2:55:20 PM

Isis Smalls

By Barney Blakeney

Most fathers would say they have beautiful daughters. When Jerome Smalls makes that assertion, two cities at opposite ends of the country back him up.

Smalls’ oldest daughter Jade Smalls Simmons was Miss Chicago and went on to represent Illinois in the Miss USA Pageant in 2000. She was first runner-up to the title winner. Last November Smalls’ youngest daughter Isis Smalls, won the Miss Houston Pageant. She’ll compete in the Miss Texas pageant June 27-July 5. If successful she’ll compete for the Miss America title in September.

Some 12 years apart in age, the two young women began life in Charleston where their father has been an outspoken advocate for the Black community. Their mother, Loretta Summers Smalls, is from Georgetown. Their daughters, while very much alike, are very different. Closer than their ages might suggest, the young women share a unique relationship.

Smalls says she doesn’t mind when people imply she’s following in her sister’s footsteps. That’s not been her intention, just the way things have worked out. She considers her sister a great role model and sees the comparison as a way to be both inspired and challenged.

Simmons, a 1996 graduate of St. Andrews High School, went on to attend Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. on a full classical music scholarship. She received her Masters Degree in Piano Performance from Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music. She now performs nationally and internationally.

Smalls was in fifth grade at St. Andrews Elementary School when her older sister competed in the Miss USA Pageant.

“I felt special to have a sister in the Miss USA pageant. I thought I probably was the coolest kid in school. And, she came to speak at my school!” Smalls recalls who turned 24 January 14.

The next year Smalls and her mother moved to Arizona. Her sister eventually settled in Houston. Smalls and her mother moved there four years later to be close to her when Smalls was 15.

Both young women played sports while in school. While Simmons had excelled musically, Smalls passions were more physical. She played soccer, volleyball and ran track and helped lead her high school volleyball team to its best season in 13 years.

Her talent on the court won her a full volleyball scholarship at the University of Chicago where she became the school’s first All-American volleyball player and holds its record for most points scored in a season or career.

Today Smalls teaches Sixth Grade English and Reading. But fitness and health always has been her passion, a passion she shares by getting young women involved in sports. The start-up girls team she founded last year was league champions.

At points in their lives the women had some parallels, but Smalls said participating in beauty pageants was furthest from her mind. In November 2012, while in Charleston with her sister who was performing in concert, Smalls met Simmons’ old pageant director. The pair had been admonishing Smalls to train and enter the contest field.

Smalls said she never had the time or interest for beauty pageants. After that meeting she saw pageants and the exposure they offer as a vehicle for her fitness and health program.

She developed “Girls In the Game: Women Empowerment Through Sports” as a platform. And with her sister and their director, Smalls began training. She won the Miss Houston title last November only a year later.

She’ll spend the next year teaching young women valuable life lessons through participation in sports. March 1 she and Simmons will speak to young women at the Dream Girls Conference in Charleston.

Smalls says she feels honored to come back to the town she calls home for the conference.

“I’m glad to have that opportunity to influence girls in my hometown,” said Smalls.

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